Tag Archives: ginaissance

Looe Original Dry Gin

In the south-east of Cornwall, some seven miles of Liskeard, is to be found the coastal town and resort of Looe. Its intriguing name comes from the Cornish word Logh which means a deep water inlet. The River Looe dissects the town into West and East Looe, connected by a bridge. As well as a sandy beach it boasts a small harbour and a quayside. One of the more recent occupants of the attractive properties along the quayside is Copperfish Distillery, the distillers of a range of gins including Looe Original Dry Gin.

The brainchild of Andy Walton, the distillery began operations in 2018 producing moonshine. With aspirations to distil a range of spirits including whisky, rum, and gin, he decided he needed to buy a still, something that proved easier said than done. However, teaming up with consultants, Ryebeck, Walton obtained the necessary finance and settled for a still with a capacity of five hundred litres, which had to customised to fit a building with low ceilings. It has three columns rather than the usual two and twelve bubble cups.

The still was installed and commissioned in late 2019 and a week later, just before Christmas, Looe Gin was launched, the first of an extensive and growing range of gins that the distillery produces as it surfs the ginaissance. As the strap line on the rear of the bottle says, it is “made on the quay by the sea”. As distillers they make a point of sourcing all their ingredients locally, wherever possible, both to reduce their carbon footprint and support the local economy. All their spirits are made from scratch and, reassuringly, they sample and test all their drinks to ensure that the drinker will have a product at its best.

Although appearances are not everything, with a consumable product which commands a premium price and with so many options to choose from, it is essential that the consumer’s attention is grabbed. Some distillers seem to forget this aspect or take a rather po-faced approach to packaging their product. Copperfish, though, have taken this essential ingredient of a brand’s success on in (buckets and) spades. There is a distinctly seaside, saucy postcode-feel to the branding, a bold colourful picture of a mermaid adopting a model’s pose in front of Looe beach. The illustration may be a little passe and, perhaps, a tad controversial in these politically correct days of sexual equality, but it certainly makes an impression.

The bottle itself is made of clear glass, cylindrical in shape with a narrow shoulder and neck leading to a silver screwcap. The label at the rear, pale yellow background with gold, light blue, and black lettering, tells me that the “fine gin is made from grain spirit and a carefully selected recipe of botanicals” and that my bottle is number 52 from batch 16. A little detective work reveals that among the botanicals that make up the spirit are juniper, coriander seed, orange peel, cinnamon bark, lemon peel, angelica root, and orris bark. It is a firmly traditional set of botanicals that puts it firmly in the London Dry Gin camp.

On the nose it provides a welcome hit of juniper with citric elements mellowing the impact. In the glass, this spirit with an ABV of 40% packs a powerful punch of juniper and orange and the other botanicals provide a long dry finish. It reminded me of a louder, brasher, more traditional relative of Tarquin’s Cornish Gin and there is nothing wrong with that.   

Until the next time, cheers!

Mainbrace Cornish Dry Gin

One of my favourite things to do after a visit to the gardens at Glendurgan and Trebah near Mawnam Smith on the Helford estuary is to pop into The Ferry Boat Inn, sit outside with a pint of foaming ale and watch the little boats sail up and down and across the river. It was such a moment that inspired the birth of Mainbrace Distillery, specifically when Richard Haigh, a co-founder, saw a member of the winning crew of the gig race celebrate with a tot of rum. They decided to create a rum that would encapsulate a moment of triumph and friendship and came up with a rum that is beautifully golden in colour and blends two distinct and never-before bottled styles. Mainbrace Rum has made quite a splash in the rum market and has begun to accumulate awards.

Rum is not my tipple and so my interest in a thriving local Cornish distillery based on the Helford Passage was only piqued when I saw that they were planning to release a gin to celebrate the late Queen’s then forthcoming Platinum Jubilee, Mainbrace Cornish Dry Gin. It seems they do things differently in Cornwall. The normal backstory is that a distiller adds gins to the more time-extensive and capital-hungry process of distilling whisky to bring in some much-needed revenue or having established a distilling operation to catch the boom spawned by the ginaissance, they extend their range of spirits to include vodkas and rums. Here, though, Mainbrace have gone from rum to gin.

Fortunately, they have chosen to keep the eye-catching bottle design, which is elegant, functional, and simply a pleasure to own. It looks like a bell or, to keep a quasi-nautical theme, a lighthouse on a rock, with a rounded, tapering base which leads to a long neck, topped by fashionably thick lips, and a wooden stopper with a real cork. The stopper has a golden star on the top and “The Queen God Bless Her” running round it, sadly missing a comma or hyphen. The labelling is bold, making good use of navy blue, gold, and white lettering.

The name Mainbrace is apposite. It was a naval term given to a thick rope which was used to steady or brace the main mast. If it was cut in enemy action, the crew had to splice the rope back together to save the ship. If this was achieved successfully, the captain would reward the crew with a double ration of rum. The phrase “splicing the mainbrace” became synonymous with raising a toast to celebrate a special occasion and was accompanied with a toast to the health of the monarch.

To splice the mainbrace in honour of Her Majesty, the distillers have taken advantage of the natural abundance that Cornwall has to offer. Using natural Cornish water in the distillation process, the spirit, which has an ABV of 40%, is made in a copper pot still in which botanicals including juniper, orris, lemon peel, angelica root, lime peel, and lime leaf are infused along with lemon verbena harvested from St Michael’s Mount, and three local seaweeds, kelp, dulse, and sea spaghetti, sourced from the Cornish Seaweed Company in nearby Gweek.  

It is a distinctly modern twist on a classic London Dry Gin style, by which I mean that the juniper plays a secondary role. On the nose it has distinct and bold citric notes. In the glass, the citrus in the lemon and especially the lime really dominate, before allowing the umami-rich seaweeds to play above the earthier traditional gin elements. The sense that this is a spirit that has a nautical tradition is reinforced by the rather salty aftertaste.

I found it refreshing and enjoyable, although I would have liked the juniper to have been more pronounced. It is a gin worth having, if only for the beautiful bottle.

Until the next time, cheers!

One Gin Sage Premium London Dry Gin

One Gin Sage Premium London Dry Gin is another one of those gins that I picked up on a recent trip to the headquarters of Drinkfinder UK in Constantine, down in Cornwall, although it is not Cornish in origin. Rather it is produced near the smoke in Richmond-upon-Thames. As is the modern way, it has an ethical and sustainable twist to its back story, one that, intriguingly, has its roots in water.

Hurricane Mitch was the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record, sweeping through Central America in 1998 and causing around 11,000 fatalities, seven thousand of whom were killed in Honduras. In Honduras at the time was Duncan Goose and his exposure to the aftermath of the devastation wrought by the hurricane brought home to him the importance of having access to safe drinking water. On his return to Blighty he gave up his job and launched the ethical bottled water brand, One Water, whose profits fund the provision of drinking water in developing communities.

Out of Goose’s endeavours rose the One Foundation, a registered UK charity, and on World Water Day in 2017, March 22nd, One Gin was launched. In line with the One mission, at least ten per cent of its profits go towards funding clean water projects, another example of indulging in your favourite tipple and making a difference elsewhere.

The bottle is cylindrical, slightly taller at the top at the bottom, with a broad shoulder and a medium sized neck which leads to a wooden stopper with a cork. The label design is busy, using greens, beige, and copper as its principal colours. Its main logo is a butterfly which appears three times, on the label, on the neck, and on the stopper. It references the well-known trope of chaos theory that the tiny flutter of a butterfly’s wings can trigger a cyclone on the other side of the world and is symbolic of the aspiration that a single small act can make a difference.

Laudable as that sentiment is, the bottle’s design is a little muted for my taste and would find it difficult to make its presence known on a crowded shelf. It was no surprise when I learned that they had completely redesigned the bottle into a more elegant shape and used a distinctly art deco approach to their labelling. Clearly bottle 356 from batch number 15 is old stock.  

The redesigned One Gin bottle

The idea was to use a flavour profile that used tastes and smells that were natural to England. As the name of the hooch suggests, the showcase botanical is sage which at first blush seems a bold choice given its strong flavour, earthy, slightly peppery with hints of mint, lemon, and eucalyptus, but these are all flavour elements that work well with juniper in a gin. Annoyingly, I have not been able to find a definitive list of all the botanicals that go into the mix and so have had to rely on my slightly battered senses of smell and taste.

On the nose there is no doubt that the main flavours are sage and juniper, both powerful aromas that jostle for pole position, although there also hints of nuts and what smells distinctly like marmalade on the margins. In the glass the spirit is clear, and in the mouth, it is a gloriously complex mix of juniper, sweet and dry citrus, and with spicy elements that become more apparent in its warm, smooth, savoury finish. It worked well with a premium tonic, do not go for an overly lemony one as there is enough in the spirit to be going along with. The sage worked well with the juniper and was an imaginative choice of botanical that sets the spirit apart from its many rivals.

Now they have sorted the presentation out, I expect One Gin to go places.

Until the next time, cheers!

Land Of Saints Organic Gin

In the battle for attention in the overcrowded market spawned by the ginaissance, Mike and Sue Bearcroft, the brains behind Land of Saints Organic Gin have a number of things going for them. As part of the name of their gin suggests, it is an organic spirit, the only gin company, as I write, which has been approved by the Organisation for Responsible Businesses. They are also Biodynamic Approved, which means that only ingredients of the highest quality are used, and their approval by the Soil Association adds another imprimatur as to quality. But that it not all. They have teamed up with Fauna and Floral International, the world’s oldest conservation charity, and at least 50p from the sale of each bottle goes to them by way of a donation. By drinking their gin, you can feel you are contributing to making the world a better place. I will drink to that!

After the Bearcrofts moved to the south Cornwall village of Devoran, four miles south west of Truro, in 2016 they decided that they would produce their own gin. They have teamed up with the Black and Gold Organic Distillery which is based in Porsanooth. To complete the Cornish theme, the name Land of Saints refers to the 69 saints who had made Cornwall their home and I picked up my bottle at the Aladdin’s cave that is Drinkfinder UK’s headquarters in Constantine.

And a wonderfully designed bottle it is too. Made of clear glass, rectangular in shape, the lower portion has a maritime blue colouring, which surrounds the silhouette of the map of Cornwall. The shoulders are broad, leading on to a medium sized neck and a wooden stopper with a real cork. Around the middle of the bottle, each of the other sides contains labelling, using, principally, the colours of green, white, and black, which tell of their organic credentials and their desire to leave “a lighter footprint on the planet”.

Distilled, obviously, with pure Cornish water and using a natural organic grain to make the base spirit, there are fourteen botanicals which include juniper, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, pink peppercorns, ginger root, dried rose buds, hyssop (a sweet evergreen herb), orange peel, camomile, violet leaves, blueberries, nutmeg, and orris root. There is a lot going on here and I always worry that in the battle to control the competing flavours and taste sensations, the result will be less than the sum of the component parts. Less is often more.

I need not have worried, though, because this gin has succeeded in maintaining its complexity while delivering a smooth, clean drink with a bite. The juniper is the dominant botanical and does not concede any ground to any of its rivals. There is warmth from the peppers and spices and a refreshingly zesty and slightly sweet finish from the citric and herbal elements. With a tonic it remains crystal clear and with an ABV of 40% is a good opener for an evening. It is definitely worth checking out.

Until the next time, cheers!

Makar Original Dry Gin

It is worth being reminded from time to time that gin is supposed to be juniper-led, something that is often forgotten by distillers who believe that the key to gaining edge in the crowded marketplace created by the ginaissance is to pick on an outlandish botanical as their signature note or to come up with a flavour combination that leaves the juniper waving the white flag as it sinks into the abyss. In Makar Original Dry Gin The Glasgow Distillery, the city’s first modern-day distillers, has created their own homage to the botanical that is the foundation block of gin, juniper.

Produced since 2014, it uses seven other botanicals – lemon peel, black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cassia bark, rosemary, angelica root, and liquorice – each carefully selected to complement, support, and enhance the juniper. The line-up may look a little old-school, nothing wrong in that, but the addition of rosemary gives it a little bit of intrigue. The botanicals are distilled slowly in a 450-litre copper pot still, which goes by the name of Annie.

The bottle is a piece of work in its elegance, one that would grace any collection. It is tall, slender and heptagonal in shape, with a slight lip to the shoulder, leading to a short neck and, surprisingly, a metallic screwcap. Each of the sides represents one of the supporting botanicals, each of which is illustrated and named on the blue band around the neck, paying their own particular homage to the star of the show, the juniper berry, illustrated in all its glory on the top of the cap.

The labelling makes good use of the Scottish blue with lettering in white with gold edges or in gold. The labelling on the rear promises that “the enlivening power of the finest juniper berries is complemented by seven harmonising botanicals, shipped to Glasgow from around the world. The result is a sophisticated gin of individual character, perfect for gin-led cocktails and invigorating with tonic”. Bold claims, indeed.      

On the nose the aroma is distinctly and welcomely that of juniper with some herbaceous notes around the edges. In the glass it is a crystal-clear spirit which initially is rather light, almost delicate in taste, before the juniper comes roaring in to remind us that it rules this particular roost. With some reluctance it subsides to allow the rosemary to add some floral notes before concluding with a peppery finale.  

In Makar, the Gaelic word for poet, the Glasgow Distillery has composed their own distinctive ode to the botanical that is the cornerstone of gin. With an ABV of 43%, this is gin as it should be, delicious with a premium tonic and bold and spicy enough to work well in classic cocktails such as a Martini or gin’s own version of a Bloody Mary, the Red Snapper.

It is as good a gin as I have tasted in some time.

Until the next time, cheers!